Headline, October 05 2022/ INDIA : ''' '' ALT NEWS ART '' '''


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DEBUNKING MISINFORMATION LEADS TO ARREST IN INDIA. A case raises concerns about independence and freedom of news media. And these two men were unlikely candidates to work in the news business.

Neither had a background in journalism, but both were alarmed about the surge of misinformation in India that followed the rise of Narendra Modi as the Hindu nationalist prime minister. To take on this problem, the men, both engineers, started "Alt News '' in 2017.

Since then, Alt News has become a leading fact checker in India, debunking rumours on social media that often spiral onto television news, including those about child-kidnapping gangs and those that say Muslims are spreading Covid.

Calling out hate speech has become part of the site's work, as it has taken aim at viral posts that inflame sectarian tensions and that sometimes moves violent mobs to attack innocent people.

Led by its founders, Mohammed Zubair and Prathak Sinha, Alt News has criticized supporters and officials of Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party for statements targeting minorities.

BUT in a reflection of the growing concerns about the independence and freedom of news media in India, Mr. Zubair has landed in the authorities cross hairs. He has been arrested on charges of hurting religious sentiments and is being investigated by the police after anonymous critics and B.J.P. officials accused him of spreading communal unrest.

''People in power want to shut me up for exposing their propaganda, their lies and their hate campaigns,'' Mr. Zubair, 40, said in an interview. ''They want to scare other journalists and activists by targeting me.''

Mr. Zubair, a Muslim, said that rather than amplifying misinformation and hate speech, he was trying to highlight them so the authorities could take action. Still, he worried for his family's safety this summer as ''arrestZubair''  trended  on Twitter. He temporarily stopped his children from riding their bicycles outside and from going to school.

The media landscape started to change when Mr.Modi gained power in 2014. His party realized the potential of reaching voters directly via social media and spent millions of dollars to mold public perceptions on platforms like WhatsApp-and Facebook.

Critics say that engagements and later copycat efforts from other political parties, lacked the filter of traditional news organizations and was aimed at millions of people who were using the Internet for the first time.

''I could also see that propaganda was building up and how misinformation was part of that,'' said Mr. Sinha, then a software engineer in Ahmedabad in the western state of Gujarat, who started debunking misleading photographs. He was not the first person in his family to take on Mr Modi's acolytes.

His parents were activists who had faulted Mr.Modi for not doing enough to stop violence against Muslims in the deadly Gujarat riots of 2002, when he was chief minister of the state.

Around the same time in Bangalore, Mr. Zubair, an engineer from a family of farmers, was also taken aback by the increasing spread of misinformation among Indians. His first attempt at tackling the problem was with satire, creating a social media account that was a parody of a leader of India's governing party. His musings attracted an audience, and soon he crossed paths with Mr. Sinha.

But despite this turmoil for Alt News which is run by the founder's nonprofits company, Pravda Media Foundation, supporters have stood by it. Donations that fund the site have remained steady, through contributions that average $12 a month per person.

''What's helping Alt News sustain are small donations. This is what scares them,'' Mr. Sinha said of the site's critics.

Control of the Indian news media in India has come under scrutiny again after a hostile bid for New Delhi Television, an independent outlet known as NDTV. Many observers fear a compromised editorial line if the bidder, Gautam Adani, Asia's richest man and a friend of Mr. Modi's, obtains a majority. stake.

AT ALT NEWS, the work continues as usual despite the cases pending against Mr. Zubair. The organization has bought an office in Ahmedabad and has opened a bureau in Kolkata. A book on misinformation is in the pipeline.

At the Ahmedabad office one recent morning, Mr. Zubair, Mr. Sinha and the rest of the team huddled to discuss which news and information to track, prioritizing whatever might have the potential to cause harm.

Nearby, another employee, Kinjal Parmar, replayed a viral video of a mob beating a man viciously, frame by frame. Soon she reaffirmed the conclusion her co-workers had reached :

The footage was of a personal dispute, not of a Muslim man's lynching. Next, she posted an article on the Alt News site that corrected the record, reducing the chances that would inflame communal tensions.

Ms. Parmar, who trained as a journalist, said no special skills were needed to be a fact checker, except an eye for spotting what's amiss. She said the work was a mission for her.

''Our job entails providing every citizen the right to correct information,'' she said. ''And in times of so much fake information, it becomes all the more important in a democracy like India.''

The Honour and Serving of the Latest Global Operational Research on Times & Tides in India, continues. The World Students Society thanks author Sushasini Raj.

With respectful dedication to the Students, Professors and Teachers of India and then the world. See Ya all prepare for Great Global Elections on The World Students Society - the exclusive ownership of every student in the world : wssciw.blogspot.com and Twitter - !E-WOW! - The Ecosystem 2011 :

Good Night and God Bless

SAM Daily Times - the Voice of the Voiceless


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